Mussels at Sawani – Esme saves up for a home

Esme with her freshwater mussels at Sawani. Picture: VILIAME RAVAI

Esme Louis Roe of Nacokaika Village survives on selling freshwater mussels during this COVID-19 pandemic.

The 28-year-old woman said before the lockdown she would buy mussels from the women in her village and bring it down to Sawani to sell.

During the COVID-19 lockdown period the Sawani border became the main business point for farmers from the Naitasri and Tailevu provinces.

It also became a prime location for other market vendors whose live lines to the municipal markets in the city has been blocked off because of health protocols in place.

The former Waidina Secondary School student said even before the lockdown her usual spot was Sawani.

“Before the lockdown, I sold from Tuesday to Saturday,” she said.

“I buy my freshwater mussels from divers for about $60 bag and sell it. My husband helps me transport the bag of mussels to the Sawani area.”

Esme said she would sell about two bags of mussels a day, but it got tougher when more vendors began arriving in from the highlands to Sawani and on some days there were less customers.

She said as time went by, the border became a hub for people from all walks of life and as the word of business spread more customers started to commute there early in the mornings.

“During that period I gained a lot of customers as people flocked to Sawani. It was easy for people to buy mussels and take it to their homes in the highlands. Mussels are easy to store and can be kept fresh because they survive long in freshwater and no need to use a freezer.

“In actually fact my mum usually dives for fresh water mussels and later she hasn’t been diving because of the cold weather so I buy from other women in the village. My husband is a driver and together we’re working to save money for our future.

“I have been saving money from the past five years of selling mussels because I want to build my house.”

“During this lockdown I will also have to be smart and do some other business such as selling yaqona and Fijian tobacco (suki). “My advice to the people nowadays is never to be ashamed of anything if you want to earn money. You can do something from nothing to earn money.”

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